The Campaign Spot

A Bit Too Much Rosy-Eyed Optimism in the Post About Turkey

Earlier this week, I said I was disappointed by the results of the Turkish elections, but not in a panic. Today the Washington Post addresses it, and I think somewhere staunch AKP critic Michael Rubin is banging his head against a wall in frustration.
The Post declares Prime Minister Erdogan ”has made no move during five years in office to Islamicize Turkish government or curb the rights of secular Turks.” Whoa, whoa, whoa – he hasn’t succeeded (or succeeded only at the margins), that’s not the same as making no move. First and foremost, let’s look at what triggered this early election: Personnel is policy, and Erdogan wanted to replace staunchly secular President Sezer with his foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, who is completely at home in the “moderately Islamist” ruling party AKP.
The Post calls Gul a “pro-Western moderate.” By the standards of the AKP party, yes, but that’s kind of like being a tall midget. Gul’s no frothing-at-the-mouth extremist, but he’s completely comfortable with a more dominant role of Islam in Turkey’s politics.
There are times when I’ve felt AKP has gotten unfairly lumped in with Hamas and other irredeemably evil Islamist groups. AKP has ruled Turkey for the last five years, and the country has not become Saudi Arabia; in fact, they’ve actually done a pretty good job of getting out of the way of economic growth. They’re not the party Americans would most prefer to work with, but they have proven they can work with us. But let’s not forget the animating spirits in that party, and the fact that a portion of their membership – not a majority, but a significant faction – are bad guys who would like to make radical changes to America’s closest Muslim ally and the world’s healthiest Muslim democracy. 

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